"It's hard to be an outspoken Black woman."
Naomi Campbell is undoubtedly one of the greatest models of all time, but that status comes with its own bit of baggage. Throughout her time on the catwalk and in front of the camera, Campbell seemed to have a reputation preceding her greatness, and in Apple TV+'s new documentary The Super Models, she opened up about how being perceived a certain way hampered parts of her career as she worked — and more specifically, as a Black model.
"It was hard to be an outspoken Black woman and I definitely got the cane for it many times," she says in the third episode of the series. Campbell recalled an incident that happened after she switched from the Ford modeling agency to Elite. Alongside the agency's founder, John Casablancas, she addressed a room full of executives and demanded equal pay.
"But when they told me what they wanted to pay me, I said no in front of the whole room. I said, 'I get paid that in Tokyo in one day, why would I take that for a contract for a year?'" she shared of a meeting at Revlon. She also said that she knew what her counterparts were being paid and wouldn't stand to make anything less than her peers.
"John got very embarrassed and then decided to call me 'difficult.' And he then decided he was going to go to the press and say I was difficult and that he fired me," she added. "First of all, let's get this clear. Models cannot get fired. We are self-employed. Sponsored by our agencies."
The episode also included a clip of Campbell speaking about Casablancas on a talk show, saying, "He was very undignified. He got very nasty, which I personally felt that it was just exploitation because he knows my name will be printed in the paper and it will be a big press thing for Elite. But I have nothing to say about him. I think his behavior was totally undignified."
On The Super Models, Campbell reflected on the incident and how it impacted her career.
"That stigma of his words and his statement to the press messed my work up for many, many years. I've heard 'crazy,' I've heard 'nightmare,' I've heard 'difficult.' I was called difficult because I opened my mouth. Period," she said.
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